Protestants separate themselves from Catholics on many doctrinal issues. While they share a belief in the Trinity and other core Christian beliefs, there is a marked difference between the Catholic and Protestant religions and their views on saints. Much of the distinction came about during the Reformation and developed more fully through the passing centuries.
The Priesthood of All Believers
Three essential doctrines defined the Protestant Reformation: the necessity of faith alone for salvation, the sole authority of scripture and the priesthood of all believers. It's this third doctrine that most influences Protestant beliefs about saints. Protestants believe that every individual human being has the opportunity to communicate with God, be forgiven of sin and live the Christian life without the interposition of another person or institution. Thus, the Catholic tradition of asking the saints to pray for something becomes obsolete and, in some cases, blasphemous to Protestants.
Saints and Sinners
The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers impacts Protestant views on saints in another way. Many Protestants divide humanity, living and dead, into two groups: saints and sinners. A saint in this view is anyone who has accepted faith in Christ and been forgiven of their sins. This is despite any sin that saint might have committed in the past or in the future. Sinners, then, are those that have not accepted Christ as savior.
Faith Alone Saves
Protestants believe that faith alone, apart from any good works, saves the soul from Hell. While Protestants teach that believers should still do good works, their importance is infinitely devalued when decoupled from salvation. Catholics, on the other hand, name saints specifically based on the good deeds the saint did in life. Thus, Saint Francis who tended to the Earth and cared for animals became the patron saint of ecology. In an effort to demonstrate the primacy of faith over works, Protestants see little need to value the accomplishments of the saints, at least not to the degree Catholics value those accomplishments.
Honor, not Veneration
The Protestant religion honors saints. It looks at those Christians who have passed on as examples of how to live the Christian life. Some Protestant denominations name their Churches after saints. Other Protestant denominations may leave off the moniker "saint" entirely, such as Methodist churches that incorporate the name "Wesley" — for John Wesley, the founder of Methodism — into their church names. This is in contrast to the Catholic view of veneration, in which a saint is honored and even prayed to after being named a saint by the Church.
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